The Undocumented Trojans Online Resource Center centralizes USCÕs various legal, medical, financial and spiritual resources, as well as immigration programming, advocacy and research initiatives. (Photo/Christopher Penler, Shutterstock)

Undocumented USC students can seek legal aid, counseling and other resources

From scholarships to visa and citizenship assistance, programs for students abound.

June 18, 2020 Larissa Puro

With today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — known as DACA — USC students affected by the ruling may have questions about services available to them.

USC has a variety of resources for these students, from medical care and counseling to legal assistance and information about scholarships. These growing resources are listed in the Undocumented Trojans Online Resources Center online.

“USC has been doubling down on support efforts for our students and community members whose lives are impacted by our country’s fluctuating immigration policies,” said Winston Crisp, vice president for student affairs.

DACA temporarily halts deportation and provides a work permit for students whose immigrant parents brought them to the U.S. as children. The Department of Homeland Security had rescinded DACA, but today’s 5-4 Supreme Court ruling restores the program.

As of March, nearly 644,000 people in the U.S. participated in DACA. According to the President’s Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, about 2% of the nation’s college students are undocumented.

“Being undocumented is extraordinarily stressful and USC has resources that can help on many levels,” said Vanessa Gomez Brake, USC associate dean for religious life and coordinator of USC’s services for international and immigrant students.

Legal resources and services available to the USC community include free legal aid programs like the Immigration Clinic at the USC Gould School of Law. Launched by the Office of the Provost, the clinic is co-directed by USC Gould’s Niels Frenzen and Jean Reisz. The clinic includes the USC Gould Immigrant Legal Assistance Center, which provides free, confidential consultations, legal assistance, and referrals to students, staff members, contract employees, faculty and family members who may be at risk of deportation. The Immigrant Legal Assistance Center can help clients apply for immigration status and answer Trojans’ questions about their legal status and legal rights under the immigration laws.

USC also offers visa and citizenship assistance.

Other programs at USC include the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism’s Safe Place Campus project and the #FightOnForDACA campaign, as well as advocacy and research centers.

Valeria Resendiz, who graduated in May with degrees in non-governmental organizations and social change and political science, has been involved with advocacy for undocumented students since her freshman year. She was a member of IDEAS Movement at USC, a student organization founded in 2011 that helps undocumented students receive the support and information required to undergo and complete their education at USC.

Information for these students used to be disconnected, outdated or lacking, Resendiz said. For example, many websites addressed only DACA recipients — but not all undocumented students have that protection.

“It is important to have a database with information that provides support to students of all statuses,” she said.

Resources on the Undocumented Trojans Online Resources Center website include financial aid and scholarship opportunities, health counseling and a directory of support communities, including the USC Student Equity and Inclusion Programs, a cluster of student development centers and initiatives that focus on intersectionality, belonging and well-being.

The work to support undocumented Trojans is ongoing. Said Gomez Brake: “We encourage everyone to get involved in efforts like these to extend the resource center’s support of our Trojan Family.”

Alicia Di Rado contributed to this story.